Peleliu Lkes, a coastal wetland on the Pacific island of Palau, is threatened by the development of a nearby tourist resort. The site is an intertidal zone of pristine sand flats and islets and is a sanctuary for migrating shorebirds, including Far Eastern Curlew, serving as a stopover for birds travelling from Arctic and subarctic breeding grounds to coastal sites in Australia and New Zealand.
However, an islet adjacent to the Lkes has been leased to a foreign developer for $300,000 with the intention of developing it into a tourist resort. Needless to say, any resort-based operations on the islet will encroach into the reef and likely severely degrade the important habitat. Furthermore, levels of disturbance will be raised.
Several Endangered species, including Micronesian Megapode, Far Eastern Curlew and Great Knot rely on Peleliu Lkes. Favourable tidal conditions present ample feeding opportunities for resident and migratory species alike. Unsurprisingly, BirdLife has added the site to their inventory of global Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs).
BirdLife's partner on the island – Palau Conservation Society (PCS) – has been working to preserve the area and faces a fresh challenge in light of the recent leasing. Stressing the vital role Peleliu Lkes plays for both the local community and birds, PCS are lobbying to convince islanders and politicians that the area needs immediate protection. Hopefully, both local and global pressure will lead to the site being included on the national network of protected areas.